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2-1 defeat to England marks end of Karina LeBlanc’s 17-year national team career

By Gunnar Berndt 

Quarterfinal: Canada vs. England 1-2
Red Stars: Karina LeBlanc (GK), Adriana Leon (FWD), Melissa Tancredi (FWD) – all Canada

Canada’s World Cup dream ended on Saturday night, as the host nation once again struggled to produce quality chances in a 2-1 quarterfinal defeat to England that saw Olympic bronze medalist Melissa Tancredi start and log 71 minutes before being replaced by fellow Red Stars striker Adriana Leon. While veteran Tancredi worked hard up top and Leon provided a significant spark off the bench, it wasn’t enough for a much needed tying goal for the Canucks, whose title hopes were ended by well-organized opponents and early strikes by Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze.

The result marked the end of Chicago goalkeeper and current Canada backup Karina LeBlanc’s 17-year national team career that began in 1998 with her full debut against China at the tender age of 18 and featured call-ups to five FIFA Women’s World Cup teams and two Olympic squads.

Red Stars forward Tancredi had the first opportunity of the match, taking down a long ball from Christine Sinclair and cutting to her right, only to see the subsequent effort sail well over the frame. That set the stage for the game’s opening tally at the other end, as England’s Taylor stripped Lauren Sesselmann of the ball for a one-on-one with netminder Erin McLeod and a confident finish to make it 1-0.

The three Lionesses would not waste any time in doubling their advantage. Midfielder Fara Williams sent a free-kick into the area from the right and Bronze rose above Allysha Chapman at the far post, her looping header sneaking in between the outstretched hands of McLeod and the crossbar for the game winner. England came close to scoring again on a similar opportunity, as Katie Chapman’s headed redirect of another set piece rattled the crossbar late in the first half.

Canadian legend Sinclair cut her side’s deficit in half shortly after the interval. Showing the instincts of a world-class striker, the 32-year-old was in the perfect spot to poke home a goalkeeper bobble by Karen Bardsley on a relatively harmless Ahsley Lawrence attempt from the edge of the penalty area.

With the Canucks pressing high in the closing stages of the match, England looked dangerous on the counter attack, one such occasion resulting in a curling shot by Taylor from the left side of the box that was superbly denied by McLeod. Sophie Schmidt had a final chance to equalize at the other end, but her left-footed volley on a beautiful cross by Chicago’s Leon whistled over the bar. While England takes on defending champions Japan in the semifinals this coming Wednesday, July 1, Canada will have to wait four years for another shot at the most prestigious of trophies.

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